Calcutta police have little but cigarette butts to show for raids on seven locations from Mumbai to Mirik in the past five months to catch the prime accused in the Park Street case.
Kadir Khan, absconding since being charged with raping a 37-year-old woman in a moving car on the night of February 5, is believed to have been staying in at least four of the seven possible hideouts the police have raided so far. On each occasion, the south Calcutta youth who used to date Tolly starlet Nusrat Jahan ducked the cops Don-style, leaving little behind except a trail of smoke and speculation.
In Mumbai, he apparently slipped out of a hotel room reeking of cigarettes and strewn with stubs just before the police barged in. At Nashik, also in Maharashtra, the cops learnt that Kadir had left long before they landed there. A raid on a hotel in the Nepal town of Patan proved a day late.
In between there were two futile trips to Bihar and Jharkhand based on what the police call “planted tip-offs”. More recently, the hunt for Kadir took the cops to Siliguri and Mirik, where again he played the artful dodger.
So is Kadir reading the police’s mind through telepathy or a mole’s sympathy?
“There is not much doubt that he comes to know of all the moves before we execute them. In the past five months, he has managed to either mislead the police or flee his hideouts before the cops reach there,” said a senior officer in Lalbazar.
Even if Kadir has moles in Lalbazar, what has puzzled the police brass is how they could have access to confidential information restricted to a small team of officers. “Only three IPS officers and trusted members of the detective department have knowledge about these raids. Each raid is carried out by a two-member team and the destination is kept a secret from the rest,” sources added.
Highly placed sources said a few officers were under surveillance, based on the possibility of them being privy to vital information at some point because of their involvement in the case or through other means.
The first sign of an information leak was the police missing Kadir by a few minutes in the Mumbai hotel where he had stayed a night with “ex” Nusrat Jahan in mid-February. “That was the closest the cops came to catching Kadir,” a source said.
If the police missed Kadir in Mumbai by a few minutes, a team from the detective department went on a wild goose in Motihari district of Bihar. They learnt later that Kadir had fled to Nashik, where he stayed in the house of a business associate for a fortnight.
After Motihari, a “false lead” kept a raid party busy in Dhanbad for 10 days. The futile trip ended with the police getting information that Kadir would visit his ailing father in an Alipore hotel in the last week of March.
The investigators were confident this was not a “planted tip-off” and lay in wait. But an information leak ostensibly prompted Kadir to abort the plan to visit his father. “He somehow came to know the cops had laid a trap. So he never turned up,” the source said.
Kadir instead went from Nashik to Madhubani district of Bihar, the police found out. “He visited his ancestral home in Madhubani but didn’t stay there. He crossed over to Nepal in April. The border is barely a 10-minute walk from his native place,” the source said.
Kadir checked into a hotel at Patan and booked a room using his real name for five days. But he left after 48 hours, just in time to avert arrest. The raid party landed up a day later. The cops confirmed it was him from a photocopy of the identity document he had produced while booking the room. Kadir also left behind part of his luggage, including packs of cigarettes of the same brand found in the Mumbai hotel room.
Apart from dodging the cops many times, Kadir has been able to maintain contact with his family without giving away his location. “He is always on conference call,” an officer said.
When two persons talk over the phone and connect to a third person using the conference facility, the recorded call details don’t include the third phone number.
Last heard, Kadir had made trips to north Bengal and Sikkim. “Throughout the time the police were waiting for Kadir in Nepal and hoping he would return to get back his luggage, he was keeping tabs on them from a hideout in Gangtok. He returned to Nepal in the first week of May, after the cops came back,” a Lalbazar insider said.
Kadir, his brother Naser, friends Ali, Sumit Bajaj and Nishad Khan (alias Ruman Khan) have all been charged with gang rape. Except Ali and Kadir, the rest are in judicial custody. Although Ali is also absconding, prime accused Kadir is the most-wanted man in the case.
The reel-life Don, played once by Amitabh Bachchan and twice by Shah Rukh Khan, would surely be proud to share his most famous dialogue with this real-life rape accused who’s making the cops go round in circles.